Shrewsbury, MO. Wal-Mart Developer Returns Seeking A $15 Million Tax Break
About two and a half years ago, Wal-Mart and a developer tried to rush the city of Shrewsbury, Missouri into approving a $15 million public subsidy so the retailer could build a 200,000 s.f. superstore on the site of a closed drive-in movie theater. Local residents managed to defeat the plan, but was it really dead?
Even with this massive amount of public financing, the project never happened. At the August, 2010 hearing, the developer asked the city to get on with the project immediately so plans could move forward. "Pick us as developer tonight and get this process going now," the developer told the city, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But the Mayor of Shrewsbury would not be stampeded into a decision, especially with 200 upset residents in the room, and the developer eventually withdrew his plans. But not for good.
This week, Wal-Mart was back in Shrewsbury, a community of only 6,200 people. The anti-Wal-Mart troops were called back into action on short notice. The city's Planning Commission has approved $15 million tax break again in the form of "tax increment financing (TIF) for the project. Now the tax subsidy plan must go to the Tax Increment Financing Commission, which will have to decide whether or not to grant the same developer, G.J. Grewe, a public bailout for his 172,000 s.f. project on the same site he backed out of in 2010.
But local residents said the math made no sense. "The largest corporation in the world -- and they want a TIF?" asked the owner of a small business -- who said she had to make her way with "no government handout, no government bailout and no assistance."
Residents are also upset that the TIF will rob revenue from the Affon School District. They charge that the Board of Alderman reviewing the Wal-Mart do not live in the same school district, and thus are not sensitive to the revenue loss this TIF means for Affton Schools. "It's not fair that people living in the Webster school district are deciding the fate of people living in the Affton school district," one resident was quoted as saying to the Post-Dispatch.
Neighbors are also skeptical of plans to close one parkway from Wal-Mart traffic in an attempt to protect cut through traffic in the residential streets near the project. But people in the neighborhoods says closing off roads also impedes their access in and out of their homes.
In addition, residents say the area is already saturated with Wal-Mart's only a short drive away in Kirkwood and Maplewood, Missouri.
According to the Post-Dispatch, Wal-Mart had profited handsomely by looking for a tax handout in order to keep a store in a community. One Alderman called it "corporate welfare" that sets communities into competition with one another to grant bigger and bigger subsidies. The community of Ellisville, Missouri gave Wal-Mart an $10.8 million TIF subsidy to secure a 155,000 s.f. supercenter.
If the TIF Commission votes to approve the welfare for Wal-Mart, it would take a super-majority of 4 out of the six Board of Aldermen to defeat the TIF plan.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Shrewsbury Mayor Felicity Buckley at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Buckley,
You are attempting to attract visitors by claiming that little Shrewsbury is a "truly special place." You say that Shrewsbury is a "unique community" which "maintains a small town, family friendly neighborhood.
So how does a big box Wal-Mart superstore fit into your vision, and why would you spend $15 million in taxpayers money to subsidize a retailer owned by the richest family in America?
Do you think you need another big box, with at least two Wal-Mart stores nearby? Have you calculated how many local retail and grocery jobs will be lost when the Wal-Mart opens? Are you convinced that you have the traffic problems solved?
A community of 6,200 people located just minutes from downtown St. Louis does not need another Wal-Mart superstore. And truly if the Walton family cannot afford to make this project stand on its own -- the taxpayers of Shrewsbury should not have to bail them out.
I urge you to reject the TIF, and send a message to Wal-Mart that Shrewsbury is not for sale, and that the town with the highest corporate subsidy is not really a winner."